Controversy rocks St Kitts over Chinese citizen wanted by Beijing for fraud

-PM blames Douglas administration, defends citizenship programme

In an address to the nation on Tuesday night, St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris blamed the previous government, led by current Opposition Leader, Dr. Denzil Douglas for the international scandal  involving Chinese national Ren Biao who is wanted by Interpol and China over  financial crimes.

The PM stated that the public had become aware within the past few days that two of their Economic Citizen residents were alleged to have defrauded State institutions in China to the tune of US$100 million, and that there were unfounded allegations that the Government of St. Kitts had been harbouring these individuals who were wanted by Interpol, and that they had not co-operated with the Chinese government.

Ren Biao (SKN PULSE photo)

Harris categorically denied that the government was failing to co-operate with any country as mandated by law and that any public official had been offered or received any money for protection in the matter.

The Prime Minister then provided a detailed timeline of events involving Biao and his family’s arrival on the twin-island state during the Douglas administration’s period in office. He stated that Interpol had given the then government adequate notice of the Chinese Nationals’ arrival in July, 2014, and absolutely no action had been taken by Douglas, who was also the Minister of National Security, to deny them permission to land in St. Kitts, or to initiate proceedings against or in relation to the individuals, or in relation to the notice from Interpol. The family has resided in St. Kitts undisturbed since 2014, he noted.

Harris continued that his government was only made aware of the situation a few weeks ago when one of their Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)  neighbours which has diplomatic relations with China, informally provided information to St. Kitts in relation to the extradition of the individuals to China. He outlined that the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act covered only Commonwealth countries, of which China was not a member, and there was no specific agreement between St. Kitts  and China. St Kitts has diplomatic relations with Taiwan (Republic of China) but not with the People’s Republic of China.

“I am advised by our legal team that they have examined all relevant laws, international conventions and bilateral treaties applicable to St. Kitts and Nevis, and the clear legal position is that there is no basis for extraditing St. Kitts and Nevis citizens in this way,” the PM said in his broadcast.

The Prime Minister declared that the  country would not become a safe haven for criminals and that “our Citizenship by Investment programme is the platinum standard of the global Industry.” He further condemned the Douglas administration for granting “these individuals their citizenship,” ignoring the Interpol warning, removing “the place of birth field from our passport leading to the dreaded FinCen Advisory and the imposition on our people of visa requirements to enter Canada.”

Since their election victory in February, 2015, Dr. Harris said his Government of national unity had immediately taken steps to turn around the Citizenship by Investment programme. This involved hiring “the international due diligence firm IPSA to do an intensive review and a look back at thousands of Citizenship applications previously granted.”  The PM added that they had implemented the reforms suggested by IPSA, “hired new additional due diligence firms of high international repute…increased partnerships with friendly governments such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union… We believe that we have one of the best programmes in the world today.”

The Prime Minister said that his government would continue to uphold the laws of the state, ensure their responsibility to the international community and not to become a safe haven for criminals.

The Reuters news agency reported that on April 27, China’s top anti-graft watchdog released new information on 22 fugitives who are hiding out abroad down to the street names where they may live, as Beijing ramped up pressure on corruption suspects who have fled overseas.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) took the fight overseas in 2015 by releasing a list of 100 most wanted fugitives which the organization has since sought to return through operations called “fox hunt” and “sky net”.

CCDI released on its website further images, suspected crimes, addresses and locations for 22 fugitives in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

The information marks the most detailed personal data released on overseas suspects to date, CCDI official Gao Bo said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

On New Year’s day, the American television investigative journalism programme, 60 Minutes, had spent a quarter of that week’s episode examining the sale of citizenship through economic investment programmes by cash-strapped Caribbean nations, whilst highlighting  the security risks to the region.

Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts and Nevis provide the cheapest options worldwide, for this way of acquiring citizenship of another country, and require little or no residency qualifications. The first two countries on the aforementioned list charge US$200,000 per person, Dominica and St. Lucia are the cheapest at US$100,000, whilst applicants for St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship are faced with fees of US$250,000.





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